VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- A couple of blue line game-time decisions are the storylines heading into tonight’s match up between the Winnipeg Jets (28-35-5) and the Vancouver Canucks (27-28-12).
Dustin Byfuglien didn’t take the morning skate at Rogers Arena this morning, but head coach Paul Maurice says the injury is unrelated to the team’s “concerns a couple of nights ago.”
As a result, for the second time in three days, Julian Melchiori has been recalled from the Manitoba Moose on an emergency basis.
Thought it would be a big void to fill, Maurice says it would also allow the Jets to explore a defensive pairing they’ve been thinking of.
“I’d like to see Jacob Trouba and Toby Enstrom get some time together,” said Maurice. “For (Jacob) it’s kind of the Mark Scheifele role. We’ve played Mark against the other team’s best for the first time in his career consistently. (Jacob) and Toby would have that responsibility in here tonight.”
On the Canucks side of things, Chris Tanev’s status will also be determined just prior to puck drop. The defenceman has missed the last three games, but did take part in his team’s pre-game skate. Tanev is averaging more than 22 minutes of ice time this season, and would be a boost to the Canucks blue line, as the team looks to build off Saturday’s 4-2 win over Nashville.
For the Jets, tonight is about trying to get their second win in a row, following a win of their own on Saturday, a 3-2 thriller over Colorado. The win was the team’s first when trailing after 40 minutes.
“It was huge. We haven’t really done that all year when we’re down in the third and coming out and taking it in regulation too, was a good feeling,” said forward Mathieu Perreault. “Knowing where Colorado is sitting in the standings, it was a pretty good feeling for us to beat them in regulation.”
The heroes that night were Scott Kosmachuk and Adam Lowry, who teamed up to put the Jets ahead with less than 10 minutes to go in the final period. Chris Thorburn, who mans the other wing with Lowry centering the trio, says the group is getting more comfortable together, as Kosmachuk prepares for his fourth straight game since his emergency recall.
“I think each game has gotten better. With (Kosmachuk) getting comfortable and getting confident, and then last game we saw his skill and his speed. (Lowry) has been solid for the most part of the year,” said Thorburn. “We know each other well. It’s just a matter of getting on the same page with (Kosmachuk) and I think last game was the best game out of the few we’ve played together. Hopefully we can continue that tonight.”
The development of young players like Kosmachuk, who registered his first NHL point in the win over Colorado, is important to Maurice at this time of year. He says it’s exciting for him to watch players get their first games of NHL experience, but that’s not all he’s focused on.
“The bigger area of focus is that next wave of youth. The guys that have been on our team for a year or two, their roles completely change,” he said, citing Mark Scheifele as an example. “He’s been on a wicked tear scoring and we like the offence. Most of what we’ve talked about with him is he’s playing against the other team’s best. So now instead of coming off the bench behind Bryan Little, he’s the guy.
“We’re disappointed that (Nikolaj) Ehlers and (Joel) Armia suffered injuries because this was that time for them too. We’re hopeful that they’ll come back. So not just the kids coming in and getting their first crack, the role changes for some of those guys that have been around is something I’m really enjoying watching.”
The Jets won the only previous meeting between the two clubs back in November at MTS Centre. Scheifele and Drew Stafford each had three points in the win. Perreault says one of the challenges tonight is the unfamiliarity between the two teams, as the line-ups tonight will look much different than they did in November.
It’s a little bit of a different mindset. We’re just trying to find an identity for ourselves. We’ve established this team as a hard-working team. So that’s what we’ve got to be focusing on for the rest of the year,” said Perreault, who knows Daniel and Henrik Sedin will require some special attention. The two have combined for 36 goals and 106 points this season.
“It’s almost like who doesn’t have the puck is probably the most dangerous guy,” said Perreault. “They’re big guys, but if you get physical, maybe they shy away from those little spin around moves and stuff like that. So just try to be physical and be aware of where both of them are on the ice.”
Puck drop from Rogers Arena is set for 9 pm CT tonight.